The Republican nomination for governor of Mississippi will be decided by a primary runoff between Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. Tuesday. Reeves and Waller were the top two finishers in the August 6 primary but neither won the majority of the vote necessary to win outright.
Reeves, who is in his second term as lieutenant governor after serving two terms as state treasurer, says that his experience in state government would make him an effective chief executive. He says that he is the more conservative of the two, and has criticized Waller for supporting Medicaid expansion and an increase in the state gas tax.
Waller calls himself a conservative Republican but says that he would win more support from Democratic and independent voters than Reeves would in the general election. He has criticized the tone of Reeves’ campaign, saying that Reeves is more focused on attacking him than on proposing policies to address the problems Mississippi faces.
Both candidates have secured new endorsements since the August 6 primary. Reeves, who already had the endorsement of term-limited incumbent Phil Bryant (R), was endorsed by a series of state officials including former Gov. Haley Barbour (R) and state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R). Waller was endorsed by third-place primary finisher Robert Foster (R). Foster and Waller received a combined 51.1% of the primary vote to Reeves’ 48.9%.
Campaign finance reports filed Tuesday show that Reeves spent $1.9 million and Waller spent $315,000 between July 28 and August 17. During the same period, Waller raised $550,000 to Reeves’ $300,000. The two met for a final debate Wednesday night.
Mississippi has open primaries, so the runoff is open to registered Democrats and independents who did not vote in the Democratic primary on August 6. The winner will face Attorney General Jim Hood (D) in the November 5 general election. In order to win the general election, a candidate must both win the statewide vote and carry a majority of the 122 state House districts. If no candidate does both, the state House will decide the winner. No Democrat has won election as governor of Mississippi since Ronnie Musgrove (D) in 1999.